‘Ethics of the Real: Kant and Lacan’ by Alenka Zupančič

Published by Verso in 2000.


The idea of Kantian ethics is both simple and revolutionary: it proposes a moral law independent of any notion of a pre-established Good or any ‘human inclination’ such as love, sympathy or fear. In attempting to interpret such a revolutionary proposition in a more ‘humane’ light, and to turn Kant into our contemporary – someone who can help us with our own ethical dilemmas – many Kantian scholars have glossed over its apparent paradoxes and impossible claims. This book is concerned with doing exactly the opposite. Kant, thank God, is not our contemporary; he stands against the grain of our times. Lacan on the face of it appears the very antithesis of Kant – the wild theorist of psychoanalysis compared to the sober Enlightenment thinker. His concept of the Real, however, provides perhaps the most useful backdrop to this new interpretation of Kantian ethics. Constantly juxtaposing her readings of the two philosophers, Alenka Zupančič summons up an ‘ethics of the Real’, and clears the ground for a radical restoration of the disruptive element in ethics.

‘Does the Internet Have an Unconscious? Slavoj Žižek and Digital Culture’ by Clint Burnham

Published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2018.

(.pdf & .epub)

Does the Internet Have an Unconscious? is both an introduction to the work of Slavoj Žižek and an investigation into how his work can be used to think about the digital present.

Clint Burnham combines the German idealism, Lacanian psychoanalysis, and Marxist materialism found in Žižek’s thought to understand how the Internet, social and new media, and digital cultural forms work in our lives and how their failure to work structures our pathologies and fantasies. He suggests that our failure to properly understand the digital is due to our lack of recognition of its political, aesthetic, and psycho-sexual elements.

Mixing autobiographical passages with critical analysis, Burnham situates a Žižekian theory of digital culture in the lived human body.

‘Interface Fantasy: A Lacanian Cyborg Ontology’ by André Nusselder

Published by MIT Press in 2009.

(.pdf & .epub)

Cyberspace is first and foremost a mental space. Therefore we need to take a psychological approach to understand our experiences in it. In Interface Fantasy, André Nusselder uses the core psychoanalytic notion of fantasy to examine our relationship to computers and digital technology. Lacanian psychoanalysis considers fantasy to be an indispensable “screen” for our interaction with the outside world; Nusselder argues that, at the mental level, computer screens and other human-computer interfaces incorporate this function of fantasy: they mediate the real and the virtual. Interface Fantasy illuminates our attachment to new media: why we love our devices; why we are fascinated by the images on their screens; and how it is possible that virtual images can provide physical pleasure.

Nusselder puts such phenomena as avatars, role playing, cybersex, computer psychotherapy, and Internet addiction in the context of established psychoanalytic theory. The virtual identities we assume in virtual worlds, exemplified best by avatars consisting of both realistic and symbolic self-representations, illustrate the three orders that Lacan uses to analyze human reality: the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real. Nusselder analyzes our most intimate involvement with information technology—the almost invisible, affective aspects of technology that have the greatest impact on our lives. Interface Fantasy lays the foundation for a new way of thinking that acknowledges the pivotal role of the screen in the current world of information. And it gives an intelligible overview of basic Lacanian principles (including fantasy, language, the virtual, the real, embodiment, and enjoyment) that shows their enormous relevance for understanding the current state of media technology.

‘Is Oedipus Online? Siting Freud after Freud’ by Jerry Aline Flieger

Published by MIT Press in 2005.


“Can Freud be ‘updated’ in the twenty-first century, or is he a venerated but outmoded genius?” asks Jerry Aline Flieger. In Is Oedipus Online? Flieger stages an encounter between psychoanalysis and the new century, testing the viability of Freud’s theories in light of the emergent realities of our time. Responding to prominent critics of psychoanalysis and approaching our current preoccupations from a Freudian angle, she presents a reading of Freudian theory that coincides with and even clarifies new concepts in science and culture. Fractals, emergence, topological modeling, and other nonlinearities, for example, can be understood in light of both Freud’s idea of the symptom as a nodal point and Lacan’s concept of networks (rather than sequential cause and effect) that link psychic realities. At the same time, Flieger suggests how emerging paradigms in science and culture may elucidate Freud’s cultural theory. Like Slavoj Žižek, Flieger shifts effortlessly from field to field, discussing psychoanalysis, millennial culture, nonlinear science, and the landscape of cyberspace.

‘Transcendence: Philosophy, Literature, and Theology Approach the Beyond’ edited by Regina Schwartz

Published by Routledge in 2004.


Why a volume on “transcendence” now? Ironically, while transcendence signals what is beyond—beyond what can be known, represented, or experienced—it has also been linked to unfashionable concepts like presence, being, power, an argument without recourse, an authority beyond reason, the tyranny of the most excellent, the hegemony of the west, and of course, a totalitarian deity, and its fate has suffered with theirs. How transcendence acquired this unsavory reputation is not difficult to figure: crimes have been committed in the name of transcendent principles—principles held beyond question, beyond critique—and even in the name of a transcendent God.


Introduction: Transcendence: Beyond… by Regina Schwartz

  1. A Place for Transcendence? by Charles Taylor
  2. The Birth of the Modern Philosophy of Religion and the Death of Transcendence by Jeffrey L. Kosky
  3. Philosophy and Positivity by Emmanuel Levinas
  4. From the Other to the Individual by Jean-Luc Marion
  5. The Betrayal of Transcendence? by Robyn Horner
  6. Othello and the Horizon of Justice by Regina Schwartz
  7. Unlikely Shadows: Transcendence in Image and Immanence by Thomas A. Carlson
  8. Transcendence and Representation by Graham Ward
  9. Blanchot’s “Primal Scene” by Kevin Hart
  10. Kafka’s Immanence, Kafka’s Transcendence by Mladen Dolar
  11. Walt Whitman’s Mystic Deliria by Christian Sheppard
  12. Sublimity: the Modern Transcendent by John Milbank
  13. The Descent of Transcendence Into Immanence Or, Deleuze as a Hegelian by Slavoj Žižek

‘Politics and History: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Hegel and Marx’ by Louis Althusser

Published by Verso in 2006.

(.epub & .pdf)

In the first two essays of this book, Louis Althusser analyses the work of two of the greatest thinkers of the Enlightenment, Montesquieu and Rousseau. He shows that although they made considerable advances towards establishing a science of politics, particularly in comparison with the theorists of natural law, they nevertheless remained the victims of the ideologies of their day and class. Montesquieu accepted as given the political notions current in French absolutism; Rousseau attempted to impose by moral conversion an already outdated mode of production. The third essay examines Marx’s relationship to Hegel and elaborates on the discussions of this theme in Althusser’s earlier books, For Marx and Lenin and Philosophy. Althusser argues that Marx was able to establish a theory of historical materialism and the possibility of a Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism not simply by turning his back on Hegel, but by extracting and converting certain categories from Hegel’s Logic and applying them to English political economy and French socialist political theory.

‘Comments on the Society of the Spectacle’ by Guy Debord

Published by Verso in 1990.

(.epub & .pdf)

First published in 1967, Guy Debord’s stinging revolutionary critique of contemporary society, The Society of the Spectacle has since acquired a cult status. Credited by many as being the inspiration for the ideas generated by the events of May 1968 in France, Debord’s pitiless attack on commodity fetishism and its incrustation in the practices of everyday life continues to burn brightly in today’s age of satellite television and the soundbite.

In Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, published twenty years later, Debord returned to the themes of his previous analysis and demonstrated how they were all the more relevant in a period when the “integrated spectacle” was dominant. Resolutely refusing to be reconciled to the system, Debord trenchantly slices through the doxa and mystification offered tip by journalists and pundits to show how aspects of reality as diverse as terrorism and the environment, the Mafia and the media, were caught up in the logic of the spectacular society. Pointing the finger clearly at those who benefit from the logic of domination, Debord’s Comments convey the revolutionary impulse at the heart of situationism.

‘The Society of the Spectacle’ by Guy Debord

Includes three different translations: Fredy Perlman, Donald Nicholson-Smith & Ken Knabb.

(.pdf & .epub, three translations)

The Society of the Spectacle, originally published in Paris in 1967, has been translated into more than twenty other languages and is arguably the most important radical book of the twentieth century.

Contrary to popular misconceptions, Debord’s book is neither an ivory tower “philosophical” discourse nor a mere expression of “protest.” It is a carefully considered effort to clarify the most fundamental tendencies and contradictions of the society in which we find ourselves. This makes it more of a challenge, but it is also why it remains so pertinent nearly half a century after its original publication while countless other social theories and intellectual fads have come and gone.

It has, in fact, become even more pertinent than ever, because the spectacle has become more all-pervading than ever — to the point that it is almost universally taken for granted. Most people today have scarcely any awareness of pre-spectacle history, let alone of anti-spectacle possibilities. As Debord noted in his follow-up work, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, “spectacular domination has succeeded in raising an entire generation molded to its laws.”

‘Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life’ by Theodor Adorno

Published by Verso in 2005.

(.pdf & .epub)

Written between 1944 and 1947, Minima Moralia is a collection of rich, lucid aphorisms and essays about life in modern capitalist society. Adorno casts his penetrating eye across society in mid-century America and finds a life deformed by capitalism. This is Adorno’s theoretical and literary masterpiece and a classic of twentieth-century thought.